Watershed planning unit meets Wednesday, September 12

IMG_1406 -Keep it Blue

by Richard Uhlhorn

Water has been released in sufficient quantities beyond the FERC required 80 cfs from Lake Chelan all summer to keep the secondary channel in the Chelan River flowing. This is water that is not being used to generate power… it is a wasted and potential resource that could be harnessed.

At the Lake Chelan Watershed Planning Unit meeting on June 13, Venessa Drinkhouse, Department of Ecology (Ecology) told the attendees that the effort to begin satisfying water right applications had been suspended for the time being.


Vanessa Drinkhouse – Ecology

Letters were sent out to applicants to see if they were still interested in moving forward with their applications. “We got rejection letters back from some… we couldn’t find some,” stated Drinkhouse. Water rights stay with the holder and are not transferred when property is sold. Finding the original water right holder is, at times, difficult or impossible.

At that meeting, Tammy Haig asked why or what was on the table. Drinkhouse replied that the Ecology feels it is better to just pause. Tim Hollingsworth asked what the potential solutions are and was told that Ecology wasn’t sure what the next move was going to be.

DSC08301-Haig - Hollingsworth

Tammy Haig – Chelan Conservancy
Tim Hollingsworth – Chelan City Councilman

Steve Nelson said that there is a pocket of water quantity that is out there of which much has been allocated. “What we have in Chelan is the PUD (Chelan Public Utility District) reserves which will eventually be allocated.

Going forward, Ecology and Nelson will be reviewing and refining water quantity estimates and look at how much water has already been used.

This brought up the idea of obtaining new water, i.e. storage facilities. The challenge of storing excess water that flows over the dam would be the permitting process to build new storage facilities or modify existing facilities.

During the spring runoff periods, the PUD dumps as much as 4,000 cfs out of the lake. “That water is essentially available,” said Nelson. “We could take that water and put it somewhere and tap into it when it is needed.”


Steve Nelson – Consultant

Hollingsworth stated that there are water towers all over town and that water could be pumped out of the lake into these storage towers. Looking at the last 10 years of spillage from May to July at 1,000 cfs average and you are looking at a lot of water over the dam that is not being used.

DSC08285-Mike Kaputa

Mike Kaputa – Director Natural Resources

The DOE in approving water right applications has to go from the oldest application sitting on their desk.

Several weeks after the meeting, Mike Kaputa, Chairman of the Watershed Planning Unit, suggested that a potential fix to the potential shortage of water available for water rights would be to just raise Lake Chelan another three inches which would result in a tremendous number of additional acre feet of water available to potential users.

This is an idea that could alleviate the more expensive solution of building new storage facilities.

On Wednesday, September 12, at the upcoming Watershed Planning Unit meeting, water rights is back on the agenda for another 50 minutes of discussion

  1. Water Supply: Update on Lake Chelan basin water rights processing from DOE and update on discussions (50 minutes).



Erin McKay = Chelan County

Throughout the summer the Lake Chelan Research Institute, Joe Heinlen of Lake Chelan Adventures, a Chelan County Water Specialist and a host of volunteers have been sampling water quality on the lake at a variety of different stations up to the Lucerne Basin.

The goal of the Institute is to have a draft report on the sampling program by mid-October.


Dr. Phillip Long – Lake Chelan Research Institute

On Tuesday, August 14, a sampling trip was made on the lake with Phil Long, Erin Makay – Chelan County, Joe Heinlen and I. Smoke had poured into the Lake Chelan Valley which made for a cool, but interesting trip on the water. Fortunately, the winds did not pick up and it was mostly smooth sailing.

During the station sampling, depth, Ph, temperatures and turbidity along with other measurements were taken. Water samples at various depths were also taken. Unfortunately, the probe wouldn’t work past 3.5 meters. Secchi disk measurements were also taken.

The following photos were taken during the trip.


Wednesday’s agenda includes discussions about future water supply and Lake Chelan basin water rights; water quality including water quality sampling activities; an update on grant funding; the Drinking Water Providers Partnership; the Keep it Blue Campaign; the DOE Centennial Grant Amendment for Water Quality monitoring; future funding opportunities; and the Acquatic Invasive Species Habitat and Vulnerability on Lake Chelan.

Regular updates at the meeting will include the LCRI strategic planning efforts; the Lake Chelan Fishery Forum; and US Forest Service updates on the Holden Mine remediation project.

This meeting will take place at the Chelan Fire Hall, 232 E. Wapato Avenue, Chelan, and beginning at 1:00 p.m. to 3 p.m.


Author: allthingslakechelan

I have been a journalist, photojournalist and reporter in the Lake Chelan Valley since 1988; first with the Wenatchee World, then 15 years at the Lake Chelan Mirror and another 12 years at GoLakeChelan. Currently, I am semi-retired but can't give up the media gig which is why I started All Things Lake Chelan blog. I also have two social media platforms; allthingslakechelan/facebook and lakechelansportsandrecration/facebook. I am also a professional photographer with many credits with major outlets around the world.

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